Restaurants in New York City will be allowed to fill 35 percent of their seats as of Feb. 26, Gov. Cuomo announced Friday.
Today they are limited to 25 percent capacity. That means an eatery with 50 seats, for example, could serve 12 patrons at a time today, but next Friday will be able to serve 17.
Cuomo pointed out in making the announcement that New Jersey allows indoor dining at 35 percent.
“What’s happening now is people in New York City, Staten Island, Manhattan, are going to New Jersey, to those restaurants, so it’s not really accomplishing a purpose,” he said. “So New York City restaurants will go to 35 percent next Friday; that will be consistent with New Jersey.”
Although he acknowledged that restaurants in other parts of New York State, including Long Island, are open to 50 percent capacity, he did not address whether Queens residents might go to Nassau County to eat the way Manhattanites go to New Jersey.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce lauded the move, as it has any relaxation of restrictions on business activity imposed by Cuomo to thwart the spread of Covid-19.
“The pandemic has been hard on business owners, especially those in the restaurant industry,” chamber President Tom Grech said in a prepared statement. “The return of indoor dining at 25 percent capacity has been a help to these struggling businesses, and we welcome the increase to 35 percent starting next Friday. But we must do more. We encourage Governor Cuomo to bring New York City in line with the rest of the State and allow for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity by March 1, with the goal of returning to 100 percent capacity by St. Patrick’s Day.”
Grech also reiterated his plea that Congress pass an aid package literally named for eateries, the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive Act. The bill has not come up for a vote in either house of Congress since being introduced in June.
“Our federal officials must do their part to help too, and pass The RESTAURANTS Act immediately,” Grech said. “We ask that all New Yorkers continue to support their favorite neighborhood restaurants at this difficult time.”
The NYC Hospitality Alliance, a restaurant trade association, also is glad to fill more seats.
“We appreciate that the Governor is following the data, listening to our voices, increasing occupancy, and we hope to continue this path and increase to at least 50% occupancy safely as soon as possible,” Executive Director Andrew Rigie said in a statement.
Cuomo is able to singlehandedly decide how many people may be in a restaurant at one time under the emergency powers he was granted by the Legislature last year to combat the novel coronavirus, which has killed approximately 46,000 people in New York State.
Now that Cuomo is under fire for allegedly withholding data on nursing home deaths from state lawmakers and federal investigators, lawmakers led by members of the state Senate are looking to reduce his power to act unilaterally. State governments in the United States are made up of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial, that are each limited and meant to act as checks against one another. Cuomo, as governor, heads the executive branch.
Asked why restaurants will have to wait a week to serve more people instead of being allowed to do so today, Cuomo’s press office did not immediately respond.
The end of this article's headline was changed from "next week" to "Feb. 26" as the date drew close.